Finding Inspiration

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

I attended the NC WORKS Conference last month and walked away truly inspired.  I work in sales for Realityworks and keeping a pipeline of customers is essential for company survival.  Inspiration comes from seeing students become successful in life as a result of our products.

NC WORKS is not really focused on just finding jobs for people, but that is a GOOD thing.  They are focused on preparing people for well-paying careers and they have a great plan in place.  The pipeline starts with Career and Technical Education Directors looking at middle school, where kids explore careers suited to their intellect, their interest and their lifestyles.  That pipeline extends to high school, where students begin to make career choices, such as healthcare, or welding, or electrical trades, for instance.

Students choose a life career pathway that leads them to a certification, such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  But, the NC WORKS group does not want the student to stop there.  They want the student to get that certification as a step into post-secondary, where the community college might take the student from CNA into an allied health field, such as respiratory therapy.

The goal is to get a student highly skilled so that they can best support themselves (salary) in their communities. That salary amount depends on where they choose to live, such as the higher end for areas like Charlotte and maybe less for more rural areas.

The bottom line here is the planning that goes into making sure we are pointing students toward careers that will allow them to live and prosper, create and support their families and be productive citizens.

The good news is that the products that my company is offering align directly in the pathways laid out by the NC WORKS commission.  Our products allow students to experience workplace skills, such as geriatric nursing, welding or electrical trades in a safe environment and allows a student to find out early if they are well-suited for this line of profession.  That makes me feel good.

This is a big charge to take on especially with and this month’s proposed Presidential Budget.  It is aimed at cutting Career and Technical Education funding by a national average of 15%, this certainly won’t help this initiative.  In North Carolina alone, according to ACTE, the state could lose 28% of federal funding under the President’s proposed budget.

Let’s hope they keep working on that budget and keep education in focus.

Welding Training Technology Sparks Skill Development and Cost Savings at Iowa High School

Administrators at Harlan Community High School (HCHS) in Harlan, IA understand the importance of technology in the education of 21st Century students – they’ve been using virtual reality welding simulators for years to help ag students explore the field of welding while developing basic skills and techniques. Their advanced technology helps teach students how to weld, keeps students engaged and saves money.

A Cost-Effective Solution

“For us, it’s not only about technology, but it’s about saving costs,” said HCHS Agriculture Education Teacher Dan Leinen. “You don’t need to purchase metal and rods and wire, yet it simulates welding.”

According to Leinen, one of the most notable benefits of the easy-to-use simulators is their  ability to introduce students safely and effectively to the art of welding.

“Unlike real welding equipment, no one is afraid of a video game – they’re just going to go for it,” said Leinen. “The anxiety of going out and welding for the first time is totally gone. That’s something I can’t teach.”

Funding the Simulators with Local Support

After experiencing Realityworks’ welding solutions and seeing the advantages of such technology in the classroom firsthand, the administration began raising funds to purchase additional machines. A variety of resources were used to help the school acquire the  simulators they now own, including funds from a federal Carl D. Perkins Career and  Technical Education Act grant and donations from the local Future Farmers of America chapter and local businesses. Fundraising provided to be the most important part of the process, although Leinen said there was a specific reason why the school was able to raise money relatively easily: the welding simulators themselves.

According to Leinen, the school’s ability to bring potential donors into the classroom and experience the simulators firsthand had a significant impact on the businesses’ decision to donate funds.

“We had one here already, and if people wanted, they could come here and see it,” said Leinen. “When people got their hands on it and saw what they would be supporting, and experienced what the kids would do in the classroom, it was a huge seller.”

Leinen recalls one company owner who had an FFA background but had never welded. He sat down and tried the simulator and almost instantly committed to donating funds.

“In today’s economy, it’s hard to get funds from companies,” stated Leinen. “But if you can  show them what they’re supporting, that makes a difference.”

Now, the difference can be seen in how the students are learning and the feedback that the school has received from the entire community. According to Leinen, the school continually receives feedback from parents, business leaders and community members about the school’s advanced welding training technology. He plans to continue taking simulators to state conventions to encourage more schools to invest in their own.

“It’s a drop in the bucket when you look at the total, overall scheme of things,” said Leinen. “This is cutting-edge technology, and for a school district to use the same technology that  major companies use to train is really exciting.”

Ready to learn more about the guideWELD VR welding simulator? Click here.

Educators Weigh In: 5 Ways to Use Virtual Reality Welding Simulators in the Classroom

By now, you’ve probably heard that that virtual reality welding simulators like guideWELD® VR can save you time and money while engaging students and training them more efficiently. And it’s true – studies like this one have been published that support the effectiveness of these teaching tools.

To help you get started with virtual reality welding simulators so you can see these results for yourself, we asked seasoned users from across the country how they were using these tools in their programs. Keep reading for 5 ways to use virtual reality welding simulators in the classroom.

5 Ways to Use Virtual Reality Welding Simulators in the Classroom

1: Use them to recruit students for your welding program

“We can’t bring students into the actual shop because of the liability, but with the simulator, students can get the feel for it and kind of see what’s going on before enrolling,” said George Karr, IT Administrator and Welding Instructor for the Hollenstein Career &
Technology Center in Fort Worth, TX. “Before school started, we had kids come in with their older siblings during  orientation who remembered using the simulator last year and were excited to show their younger brother or sister. They really like it – it’s a great recruiting tool.”

2: Use them to provide welding and manufacturing career exploration opportunities

“A lot of these kids have never touched a welder or turned a lathe in their life,” said Mobile Manufacturing Lab Technician John Paulus, who uses the guideWELD VR welding simulator in the Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Mobile Manufacturing Lab to provide middle- and high-school students from across Western Wisconsin with manufacturing career exploration opportunities. “We’re trying to get these kids excited about getting skilled and getting into manufacturing careers. This equipment is enhancing our ability to do that.”

3. Use them to engage students with classroom competitions

“We had competitions with the guideWELD VR unit… everyone was trying to beat each other’s scores and kept taking more turns. Everyone was really excited about it,” recalled Rodian Manjarres, a second-year student at the J. Harley Bonds Career Center in Greer, SC. “I liked it a lot because I could beat the guys at it. There are only a few of us that can get the gun to turn gold.”

4. Use them to keep more students productive – and safe

“When students asked why they were having to slow down or speed up or whatever, I’d walk through their weld with them,” stated Karr. “Once they got going, I could walk away from them and oversee other students in the shop who were working on something else. The kids using simulators didn’t need as much help as those working alone – it told them what to do so I could go help someone who needed it.

5. Use them to generate community support for your program

Harlan Community High School Agriculture Education Teacher Dan Leinen recalled one specific reason why his was able to fundraise money relatively easily: the welding simulators themselves.

“We had one here already, and if people wanted, they could come here and see it,” said Leinen. “When people got their hands on it and saw what they would be supporting, and experienced what the kids would do in the classroom, it was a huge seller.”

Leinen recalls one company owner who had an FFA background but had never welded. He sat down and tried the simulator and almost instantly committed to donating funds.

“In today’s economy, it’s hard to get funds from companies,” stated Leinen. “But if you can  show them what they’re supporting, that makes a difference.”

Ready to learn more about the guideWELD VR welding simulator? Click here.

From Chicken Legs to Life Skills: What I’ve Learned from Ag Education

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

I learn something new every day. But what I learned this week reminded me of an old Bob Hope joke (remember who he was?)

Bob Hope once judged the mini-skirted fashion model Twiggy when he said “Give her an inch and she’ll make a skirt out of it.”

Today, I learned from an Ag Education teacher that you judge chickens, namely hens, by their legs – or rather, the whiteness of their legs. The whiter the legs, the more “seasoned” the hen, and the more eggs she will produce.

This is something useful to me, not just because I work for a company that sells experiential learning aids for agriculture education, but because I am learning how valuable Ag Education really is, whether or not students ever become farmers or teachers – because I am a consumer of food.

It’s kind of like when I learned how to drive in driver’s ed. I never had an intention of becoming a professional driver, but I needed to learn to drive in order to find work, food, or just see the countryside.

Ag Education teaches kids the importance of producing quality food, distinguishing what is healthy and what is marketing on labels. It teaches kids how to grow food in water, fertilized by fish waste. It teaches kids how to mend a fence or a tractor by welding. Life skills is really a central theme of Ag Education. Kids learn how to do just about everything around the home or farm, but it also allows them to decide what they will be best suited to do in life. And, like most of us, they won’t be doing the same thing their entire lives. When life throws a curve, they’ll have other skills to fall back upon.

Oh, and another thing, just to set the record straight: Chickens lay eggs with the large side out first, not the small. I learned that from our Chicken Model.

Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.

Welding Pays Off: The Importance of “Upskilling” in Today’s Welding Education Programs

By Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager

Every April, educators, students and business leaders come together to bring awareness to and speak about the value of welding. National Welding Month is an annual celebration and recognition of welding’s impact on our world and the important role it plays in our everyday lives. Now is the perfect time to consider just how important it is that our welding students have the skills they need to succeed.

The demand for skilled welders is growing. The American Welding Society predicts a need of almost 200,000 welders in the United States by 2020, while the Manufacturing Institute has stated that in the next decade alone, there will be a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs.

To ensure the welding industry is prepared to meet this demand, today’s welding educators and instructors must make certain that their programs and training methods are equipping today’s young people with the skills employers are looking for. And, in a workforce that will increasingly require those who are agile, adaptable and highly qualified, “upskilling” students above and beyond the fundamentals of welding will only make them more employable in a competitive, high-demand industry.

Skills pay off

With an oversupply of entry-level welders and a growing number of skilled welders ready to retire, welding and manufacturing companies are paying more and more attention to welding codes and qualification standards. This means welders who are certified, or who are able to examine and test their own welds, are more attractive than ever before – and their pay reflects that attraction. According to the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International’s “2013 Salary/Wage & Benefit Survey,” a welder who is certified to AWS, ASME and other codes has the broadest salary range of any shop floor position, up to $83,000 for a base salary, not including overtime and bonuses.

While having basic welding skills can certainly pay off, other skill sets can also pay large dividends. Figure 1 depicts the many paths one can take when considering a welding-related career. For instance, the chart shows the average pay for a welding supervisor and a manufacturing production supervisor. With reported average pay ranges around $12,000 higher than an average welder, these highly skilled positions are rewarded with higher pay.

When speaking with various workforce development boards and companies within the welding industry, it’s not uncommon to hear welding and manufacturing industry representatives say that they routinely pay more per hour for employees who can visually inspect welds and supervise others in the creation of quality welds over those who could simply create the quality welds.

Barring geography, experience, skill level and employer, the message is clear: By focusing on basic skill development and the development of additional career-specific skills such as weld testing and qualification, educators and trainers are opening the doors to higher pay, more benefits and in the long run, more successful careers.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of “Welding Productivity.” Click here to view the article in its entirety.

Instructor Uses In-Helmet Guides to Boost Student Confidence During Live Welding

by Emily Kuhn

For Hutchinson Community College Welding Technology Instructor Greg Siepert, Realityworks’ guideWELD™ LIVE real welding guidance system is a portable, easy-to-use way to rid seasoned welders of bad habits and boost the confidence of first-time welders.

“We struggle with confidence a lot,” said Siepert, who teaches the first year of this Kansas vocational school’s two-year welding program. “When students are in the booth, I can’t tell them in the middle of a weld that they’re right where they need to be, but when they don’t know, even if it looks right, they aren’t confident in their ability. This system gives them real-time feedback on what they’re doing and if it is right or wrong, and it builds their confidence.”

That real-time feedback is provided inside the welding helmet on work angle, travel angle and arc speed during live, arc-on welding. It occurs in the user’s periphery vision, similar to the manner in which video games communicate information to players on-screen or cars communicate speed and mileage to drivers from the instrument panel. With the guideWELD LIVE helmet in place, users see real-time guides on the right and left sides of their vision, and can focus on those guides or their weld as needed during a weld.

The guideWELD LIVE system, which works with almost any MIG welding machine, consists of a welding helmet, speed sensor board and hand sensor. Once the user has calibrated his or her welding gun, he or she can turn on all three indicators simultaneously or focus on only one or two at a time.

“The big application for this system is for those who are struggling with those basics,” said Siepert. “You can give this to them, show them the indicators and watch them make the change.”

According to Siepert, a lack of confidence is a common problem among his first-year welding students. He shared the story of one student who had the skills down but “didn’t feel right about his welds.”

“I had him work with it for 30 minutes,” Siepert recalled, “and he came back and said he got it – and his welds had vastly improved. So did his confidence.”

Although Siepert teaches a beginning welding program, his classes often include students with a range of backgrounds and experiences. In addition to reinforcing basic welding technique and positioning, Siepert also found the guideWELD LIVE system to be a useful supplement for retraining.

“This system is good for students who come out of industry or another program or from being taught at home and had bad habits,” said Siepert. “Habits are hard to break, and this would help – they would know exactly what to correct in real time.”
Being able to easily introduce the system to students of different technical abilities was key, according to Siepert, who started using it with a class of varying abilities. Some students had never welded before, some had some education and one was a displaced worker with no formal education but years of experience.

“The setup is phenomenal because it’s quick and fast,” said Siepert. “I could pick the system up and move it to a booth, and it didn’t involve any modification of what I did. All I had to do was show the student how to use it.”

As Siepert pointed out, however, being able to successfully introduce the system to a new student goes beyond just getting them started. For those who have never seen this kind of technology in a welding shop before, successful implementation can mean establishing an understanding of why this type of tool works – and that it is OK to use.

“As welding education improves and technology improves along with it, and we slowly start moving away from how it’s been done for years, there’s still a consensus that if there are supporting teaching aids used, it’s a walk of shame,” said Siepert. “We’re trying to fight that… this system adds another level to their education.”

The guideWELD LIVE system includes curriculum, which features units on safety, welding defects and welding procedure specifications. Presentation slides, teacher guides, worksheets and tests are provided as well.

“Any time you can take away frustration and build confidence, you gain retention,” said Siepert. “This system is a stepping stone from the virtual world to the real world.”

5 Ways to Engage Today’s Agriculture Students

By Emily Kuhn

You may have noticed that there are some unique differences between the Generation Z students that sit in your agriculture classroom today and the millennials you previously taught. Today’s students are even more tech-savvy, can multi-task even faster and, if you can believe it, have an even shorter attention span than their predecessors. They read less than 20% of text; think in 4D, not 3D; and are used to immediate feedback.[1]

The standard classroom model where an educator stands in front of the class and lectures simply doesn’t work for these students. Generation Z students want to be successful – in fact, the desire to change the world is a hallmark of this generation – but they will disengage with the discussion if they don’t feel connected or if they don’t see the relevance.

Did I mention that Generation Z students are used to immediate feedback? Current technology has made them used to finding out anything, anytime, anywhere – the world is literally at their fingertips. Today’s agriculture students don’t just want to hear about a topic, they want to see it, touch it and feel it.

How do you engage today’s students in agriculture education?

1. Replace lengthy PowerPoint presentations with brief presentations that incorporate polls, activities and hands-on demonstrations every few slides.

2. Use videos, online activities and group work in addition to the textbook. By varying their focus, you’ll help keep it.

3. Use hands-on learning aids like our new Animal Models and Plant Science Models. These larger-than-life models can be taken apart and put back together as students explore each animal’s internal and external anatomy.

4. Don’t forget that “Why” is as important as “What.” As one of my colleagues recently informed me, Generation Z students need to know that what they’re learning is relevant, and by answering the “Why” question with evidence-based reasoning before teaching the “How,” you’ll assure them that the concept you’re about to teach applies to real life.

5. Incorporate soft skill development whenever possible. Your students will come to you with a varying degree of these skills, but you know all employers will look for them. Collaborative work helps build communication skills, assignment tweaks and activity changes help build flexibility, open-ended questions help build problem-solving skills and reflection activities help build critical thinking skills. (Our Employability Skills Program can help, too.)

With nearly 60,000 high-skilled agriculture and related job openings expected annually in the U.S. over the next five years, it’s more important than ever to ensure that today’s agriculture students are engaged. By creating an interactive, hands-on learning environment where they can engage in active learning opportunities, you’re setting your students up for success.

[1] https://growingleaders.com/blog/six-defining-characteristics-of-generation-z/

10 Ways to Use a Portable Workstation in Your Shop

The importance of storage space in a Career & Technical Education (CTE) classroom or shop cannot be understated. After all, the more organized you are, the better you can manage your classroom and keep your students safe, on task, engaged and productive. Yet CTE educators constantly tell us that they don’t have enough storage space in their classrooms – and much of the time, the storage solutions that are in place take up valuable work space.

That’s why we created our Portable Workstations. Available in two sizes and with locking wheels, these sturdy carts feature three drawers, one of which locks, plus a tough, grated work surface that is tough and durable.

Roll this mobile welding workstation into any area of your classroom or workshop to:

  1. Store tools and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  2. Complete woodworking, metalworking or small engine repair projects
  3. Keep your favorite tools close at hand and safely locked up when not in use
  4. Work with up to 250 lbs. of materials on the small workstation and up to 500 lbs. of materials on the large workstation
  5. Safely store gas cylinders for even the largest welders and projects
  6. Protect your equipment from slag and grinding dust
  7. Work on welding projects (the large cart even includes a removable welding curtain)
  8. Demonstrate techniques and best practices where all students can effectively observe
  9. Store projects and extra scraps
  10. Set up a portable welding work space or learning station anywhere

Learn more about our Portable Workstations from the Realityworks team member who helped engineer them, Mechanical Engineer Mike Zaborowski:

6 Reasons to Meet Realityworks at the Association for Career & Technical Education’s CareerTech VISION Conference

Every year, the Realityworks team journeys to the largest annual gathering of Career & Technical Education (CTE) professionals in a single location: The Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE)’s CareerTech VISION Conference. We typically plan for this conference a good year in advance, and this year is no exception. Held in the Las Vegas Convention Center from November 30 – December 2, this year’s conference will be attended by thousands of technology education professionals, educators and industry representatives. From product exhibits and presentations to interactive demonstrations and more, there are countless reasons to meet Realityworks at ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2016 Conference at Booth #529. Here are our top 6!

  1. Preview interactive products and simulators for nursing skills training, including injection training, elderly nursing care and catheterization
  2. Explore the new RealCareer™ Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit, a set of wearable simulators that mimic hearing impairment, arthritis and hand tremors
  3. See the new Birth Process Kit, which includes six large, lifelike models that depict each stage of the birthing process
  4. Get a SNEAK PEEK at our one-of-a-kind animal science and plant science models, including detailed animal and stomach models and a plant science kit (available in 2017)
  5. Try virtual reality welding with the guideWELD® VR welding simulator
  6. Conduct live welding with the guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system

guideweld

Additional ways you can interact with Realityworks at VISION 2016 include:

  • Attend the “Baby Basics and Best Practices” pre-conference workshop we are co-hosting with the National Association of Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences on November 30
  • Join us at the NATFACS Awards Reception, ACTEBabywhere
    we’ll be raffling off a new
    RealCare Baby 3 infant simulator
  • Attend the “Create Student Engagement Through Experiential Learning Tools” pre-conference workshop we are is co-hosting with the National Association of Agriculture Educators on November 30, where we’ll be raffling off one of our NEW animal science models
  • Attend the Health Occupations Student Association (HOSA) Luncheon we are co-hosting with HOSA on December 1, where we’ll be raffling off a RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator and sharing more details on our new experiential learning tools for health sciences
  • Share your selfie for a chance to win! tweet a selfie with your favorite Realityworks product in our booth and tag us @Realityworksinc and the show #VISION16 for your chance to win a Realityworks mug!

You can still register for ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2016 Conference online by clicking here. We hope to see you there!

Welding Education in the 21st Century: Engaging Today’s Students in a Growing Career Path

In July 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics reported the need for 379,000 manufacturing positions – an increase of more than 280 percent since 2008.1 Industry leaders report that these job openings will continue to grow; according to the American Welding Society, there will be a need for over 400,000 welders by the year 2025.2 In the next decade alone, the Manufacturing Institute predicts a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs.3 As the nation’s workers and infrastructure age, demand for qualified workers in the manufacturing industry will continue to grow.

glimpseWhile manufacturing job openings grow, however, employers are struggling to find qualified workers to fill them. In fact, the number of open manufacturing positions is at its highest point in 15 years, but the rate of hiring has only increased by 36 percent since 2008.⁴ The nation is facing a significant skills gap, one that the Manufacturing Institute predicts could result in nearly 2 million of the industry’s anticipated job openings going unfilled.⁵

Technology can play a powerful role in the engagement of today’s students in these vital career paths. After all, 21st Century Learning is a technology-based learning style; it is second nature for today’s process-oriented, connected and media-driven students to use technology to communicate, collaborate and create. Brick-and-mortar school buildings may have remained relatively the same over the past century, but the advancement of technology means the tools available to instructors are completely different.

How educators use technology is key in equipping students with the skills the workforce needs to remain globally competitive, from manufacturing and welding and beyond – and Career and Technical Education (CTE) professionals are stepping up. From virtual reality simulation tools to certification programs and student-run businesses, CTE instructors are taking steps to engage today’s 21st century students in these growing career paths and give them hands-on opportunities to learn valuable trades.

Illinois education organization using tools, certifications to teach students industry-specific skills

skillsgapThe Career Education Associates of North Central Illinois (CEANCI) is an Education for Employment (EFE) organization that serves 10 school districts in the Rockford, IL area. It works with educators and industry leaders to help ensure that the 28,000 students in its coverage area (which includes 15 high schools and 19 middle schools) have curriculum, equipment and materials to help them learn targeted, industry-specific skills. As the region encompasses a strong manufacturing industry, one of those skills is welding – a skill that CEANCI System Director Margie Hartfiel says is worth investing in.

“When we look at the programs we fund, we make decisions that are tied directly to labor market information,” said Hartfiel, who has been working in education for 27 years. “Welding is a high-need area, and as our labor market ages, we are finding that the business partners we work closely with are telling us repeatedly that they need these particular skills.”

Industry certifications are one way CEANCI is helping its students learn industry-specific skills. CEANCI currently offers certifications in a variety of CTE pathways, including manufacturing, early childhood, culinary arts and industrial technology – all of which the EFE works with industry representatives to ensure the relevancy of.

In 2014, CEANCI helped 630 students earn certifications; that number grew to 2,303 in 2015 and Hartfiel predicts that this year, over 4,300 students will earn certifications. Support for the initiative is regionwide; area educators and industry representatives recognize the value of a student’s ability to graduate from high school and say, “Yes, I can do this, and I have proven it.”

guideweld Technology is another tool that CEANCI is using to equip students with in-demand welding skills. In 2015, CEANCI approved funding for the guideWELD® VR welding simulator and the guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system. Implemented as a pilot program in the Winnebago and Oregon school districts, the guideWELD VR simulators are used to introduce students to welding in a virtual, spark-free environment, while the guideWELD LIVE systems are used to help students hone live welding skills. CEANCI sees two specific benefits to the implementation of such technology: the ability to save money and the ability to demonstrate learned skills.

Click here to download the full PDF version of this case study and learn how welding education will impact the 21st century classroom.